• JanaK

Public River Access

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

There are communities in the Eastern Panhandle with private access to both rivers. This is a list of the locations for public access. Most of the public access for the Potomac River is from the Maryland side. Maryland owns the river up to the shoreline on the West Virginia side. So accessing the river will require crossing over to Maryland. It's then a short trip to these access points. The exceptions are the access points from Shepherdstown and canoe access points in Harpers Ferry. Links are provided with maps and more information. Locating These sites is a work in progress as we uncover new spots so check back.


Hancock Little Tonoloway Boat Ramp Area Map

River Access Point

Big Pool Canal Access (from MD side)

McCoys Ferry Boat Ramp

River Access Point

McCoy's Ferry boat ramp has access to the Potomac off Md. Route 56 on McCoy's Ferry Road. There are 12 parking spaces.

Four Locks Boat Ramp

River Access Point

The Four Locks boat ramp has access to the Potomac River. There are 2 ramps and 30 parking spaces. The ramp is located off Md 56 on Four Locks Road.

Williamsport Boat Ramp

River Access Point

The Williamsport boat ramp has access to the Potomac from river Bottom Park off Salisbury Road. There are 25 parking spaces.

The Potomac backs up behind a hydroelectric dam just downstream of the boat ramp and provides good fishing areas upstream including Conococheague Creek.

Big Slackwater Boat Ramp

River Access Point

Big Slackwater boat ramp has access to the Potomac River and is located off Dam 4 Road. There are 55 parking spaces, including parking for trailers.

The boat ramp and parking area are adjacent to a major reconstruction effort by the National Park Service that began in August 2010. In October 2012, the Park Service celebrated the completion of the project, which restored approximately 2.7 miles of the canal topath that were closed after the Potomac flood of 1996, with a circuitous 5-mile detour on narrow public roads. The $17.4-million project involved reconstruction of the towpath and a 4,000-foot wall on a rock ledge over the Potomac. According to the National Park Service, this part of the towpath has been repeatedly damaged since the canal ceased operations in 1924. With the project complete, the canal is now uninterrupted for its entire 184.5-mile length.

Taylor's Landing Boat Ramp

Taylor's Landing boat ramp has small boat access. It is located off Taylors Landing Road and has 14 parking spaces. The river from here downstream to Shepherdstown--about five miles--can be canoed or kayaked if the river level is high enough. Check the Potomac River gage at Hancock, Maryland. River levels should be above 3 feet. Upstream of Taylor's Landing is also a nice flatwater area for about a mile. The next boat ramp downstream is at Snyders Landing. The nearest boat ramp upstream is at Big Slackwater on the Maryland side of the Potomac.

Snyder's Landing Boat Ramp

Snyders Landing boat ramp has small boat access to the Potomac at the C&O Canal. There are 10 parking spaces. The ramp is located off Md. Route 34 on Snyders Landing Road.

This section of the river holds some of the best small mouth fishing on the river if you know where to go.--Mick

Shepherdstown River Access

Boat ramp on the Potomac in Shepherdstown, W.Va., also known as the "Princess Street Boat Ramp", has a concrete, 1-lane ramp and parking for 8 vehicles. It is located downstream from the New Rumsey Bridge and upstream from the Rumsey Monument. It is near the site of the famous demonstration of James Rumsey's steamboat.

Mountain Lock 37

Canoe/Kayak Access Point

Dargan Bend Boat Ramp

The Dargan Bend boat ramp has Potomac River access for small boats at the C&O Canal upstream of Harpers Ferry. There are 25 parking spaces. The ramp is located off Shinham Road. From Route 340 Exit #1 (Keep Tryst Road), follow Harpers Ferry Road past Pleasantville Road. The next road before the Manidokan Camp and Retreat Center is Back Road, which may be unmarked. It leads down to the boat ramp.

The area around Dargan Bend includes some interesting structures that have been somewhat overrun with vegetation. About 3/10 of a mile upstream is an abandoned limestone kiln. The area around the canal is rich in limestone and other minerals.

In the 19th Century, farmers in this part of Maryland used kilns to heat limestone and transform it into a something that could be used to improve soils. Lime was also used in iron furnaces to remove impurities from ore and in making hydraulic cement that was used in canal structures. The lime kilns above Dargan Bend were operated by O. J. Shinham until approximately 1950. They used limestone quarried nearby.

Canoe/Kayak Access Point

Dam No. 3 is a rubble dam that was built immediately above "The Needles," a whitewater area of the Potomac above Harpers Ferry. The dam creates a large slackwater area that extends north to near Antietam Creek.

The dam was originally known as the Armory Potomac Dam, first built to supply water for Harpers Ferry Armory. The dam also supplied water for the Patowmack Company's canal at House Falls, and later the C&O Canal obtained permission to take water from behind the dam to supply the canal from this point all the way downstream to Seneca, more than 40 miles. At Dargan Bend (canal mile 69), a picnic area and boat launching site are available.

Access to the Potomac above Harpers Ferry is from Valley Road (Md. 180) east off U.S. 340 in Maryland. Turn right on Sandy Hook Road, then follow back under U.S. 340 and west to Harpers Ferry Road 2.5 miles to Dargan Road. Follow Dargan Road approximately 1 mile to the boat launching area.

Sandy Hook Access

Canoe/Kayak Access Point

Kayak and canoe access near Lock 34 below the New Rumsey Bridge.

Harpers Ferry Access

Canoe/Kayak Access Point

Access point on the Shenandoah River near the confluence with the Potomac in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

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